Turkey says offensive against Kurds not dependent on US pullout

Turkey signaled that a military offensive would not wait for a U.S. departure from Syria.

By David Isaac, World Israel News 

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that a Turkish strike in northern Syria would not be dependent on U.S. troops leaving the area.

“If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Çavuşoğlu said, referring to Turkey’s planned military invasion against Kurdish forces in Syria, Agence France-Presse reports.

Cavusoglu also said that the U.S. couldn’t be expected to collect all the weapons it provided to its Kurdish ally in Syria, AFP reports. He made his comments on Russian television channel NTV.

Turkey is upset that America has slowed its planned withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria, partly in order to ensure the protection of its Kurdish allies. U.S. President Donald Trump promised Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan he would remove U.S. forces from the region in an apparently on-the-spot decision last month which surprised U.S. allies and even members of his own administration.

On Tuesday, Erdogan cancelled a meeting with Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton to protest a request from Bolton to avoid harming Kurds in Syria. Turkey considers all Kurdish forces terrorist organizations.

Erdogan tore up the written request in a theatrical gesture during a speech in Turkey’s Parliament, on Tuesday.

“Turkey has almost completed all of the necessary preparations for defeating the remainder of ISIS’s forces in Syria, and following the planned American withdrawal, we will take action to neutralize all of the terror threats,” he announced.

“Soon, we will eliminate all of the terror elements in Syria. If any group tries to interfere with our mission in Syria, we are duty bound to destroy it as well,” he said, telegraphing an ominous fate for Kurdish fighters.

The Kurdish forces in Syria are known as YPG, an acronym for People’s Protection Units. It’s the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group that includes a number of militias that fought against ISIS in Syria with American aid.